An online course is a great way to get your unique knowledge out there AND scale your business. At the same time, creating distance learning courses that are transformational for your audience and give you a return on investment is a task that requires effort and commitment.
However, if you know the phases you should go through step-by-step, I promise that it will be an exciting and transformational learning experience for you and your audience.
I have created thousands of lesson plans and helped hundreds of experts develop their courses over the years. I have written five textbooks and run educational institutions. My past experiences and background have given me excellent in-depth knowledge of what works in building your online course.
In this article, I give you the 4 phases you should go through to create a meaningful online course that will sell. The infographic gives you an overview of what those phases are. If you are interested in getting more details, please read on.
Phase 1: IDEA Clarification
The first critical phase in creating a successful online course is Idea Clarification. There are several elements to get clear about before jumping into the content creation and the course production.
The purpose of this phase is to ensure a good product-market fit. The research you do in this phase will influence your winning course topic, the intended learning outcome, how you create your course outline, and your pricing strategy.
I like to start with a discovery questionnaire.
The purpose of this is to get an initial idea of the course topic and how it will help your audience do something they were unable to do before. It also helps clarify what the course will do for your business. You want to be able to see your course through the eyes of the learner and the benefit and change your course will create for your audience.
An online course is much more about transformation than it is about knowledge. There is so much information available out there. The key to a successful course is that it creates a shortcut. It helps the learner apply the unique knowledge you share in a way that will help them reach their goals faster and easier than if they were to do it on their own. Ultimately a well-crafted, meaningful online course will help them change their life for the better.
Let me explain this with an example. One of my clients is a very successful executive coach. He has worked with large companies such as Disney and FedEx. He told me that the problem for most coaches is that they settle for helping their clients get an insight about their current Point A. They may understand why they have these recurring problems, but nothing really changes. The idea is that you want to be coaching towards a well-defined end goal, the desired future, the Point B.
When you coach with the desired future or Point B that all the internal work will achieve, your coaching will be a transformational process where everything points towards that end goal.
It is like driving with a GPS. You wouldn’t put your current destination into the GPS – always the point of destination.
It is the same way in a successful online course. The point of the idea clarification is to get clear about the desired internal and external outcome for your audience. How will your digital learning experience bring them from where they are (Point A) to where they want to be (Point B)?
Steps you can take in the idea clarification process to reach a detailed picture of the desired Point B of your online course is to do:
- Audience Research
- Market Research
- Competitor Research
The audience research will help you make informed decisions about the transformation your audience is looking for and how you can help them get there. You will gain insight into their current challenges and pain points that you can help them solve. It will also help you slice your audience. You will likely have more than one audience. And it is better to help one audience at a time because they will have different needs. You can always create other courses for other parts of your audience.
Market and competitor research will help you know what else is out there. It will help you clarify how you differentiate and help you make decisions about your pricing strategy.
All the research you do at the beginning of the course creation process will help you develop a clear course outline with a clear picture of the desired Point B. You will know the intended learning outcome of your course that will match the transformation your audience desire and the major steps they need you to walk them through to get there.
Phase 2: Content Creation
Once you have an online course outline, you are ready for the content creation part of the course creation journey.
This is the phase where you get to put meat on the course outline. Creating a storyboard will help you clarify why each step of the course is necessary for the learner. You will define what knowledge they need to have and how they can apply this new knowledge to help them master each step of the way towards the desired Point B.
When you have your storyboard, it is much easier to write the content such as slides, talking points, worksheets, workbooks, etc. You know precisely what is needed.
Once all the content is created, you can start recording your course.
Phase 3: Course Production
There are a lot of different ways to provide a learning experience. In the course production phase, you get to choose your unique wrapping that fits your content, presentation style, and budget.
The options range from simple voice recording to your slides to full-scale video production in a professional location. This is also where the price difference in the production costs will vary significantly.
Things to consider in this phase are:
- Low key or high tech
- Indoor or outdoor
- Technical skills
- Personal and brand style
The cheapest option is to create a PowerPoint and do a voice recording.
Whatever your choice or budget. Don’t be discouraged! You can create a powerful transformational learning experience for your audience, no matter the format.
Phase 4: Launch
The last phase in the course production process is the launch. Before you launch, you need to decide where to put your online course to make it available to your audience. You get to choose the Learning Management System (LMS) that fits your needs and your business. Once you have your online course in the learning management system, you can test it and create your customer experience funnel to generate sales.
When it comes to learning management systems, you have many options to choose from. You can put your content on one of the existing course mall sites like Teachable or Udemy. Or you can choose a platform that allows you to integrate your course into your websites, such as Thinkific or Kajabi.
The course malls such as Teachable and Udemy help you get your course out in front of a large audience. However, they take a portion of your revenue, and you have to be part of their low-cost offers and sales.
Other platforms like Thinkific and Kajabi allow you to keep all your revenue in exchange for a monthly fee to host your courses, and you get to have your branding. With these platforms, you can integrate your online course into your website, which is advantageous when your online course is an integrated part of your business offering and pricing strategy.
I use and recommend Thinkific myself.
I chose this platform for my courses because of the interface and the easy navigation viewed from the customer’s perspective, along with the price options and features in their different plans. I started with the free plan to test the platform and have been very satisfied with all their resources to help me create successful online courses for my clients.
Once you have your online course in a learning management system, you can test it. Share it with 3-5 people who can give you feedback on the learning experience as they see it. Again this allows you to see your online course through the eyes of your intended audience.
In this phase of the course creation process, you also make your online course ready to sell. Again, you can do many things to promote your online course. A basic approach is to create a free webinar as a lead magnet and an email campaign for lead generation.
The main thing to remember is that YOU CAN DO THIS! You have unique knowledge, skills, talents, and passion for helping your audience reach their goals and transform their lives.
If you follow the 4 phases step-by-step in the course creation journey, you can make an online course that will sell. You will build an online course that will help your audience get to their desired Point B and help you grow your business at the same time.
On my website, you will find more information and resources to help you get started on building your online course AND scale your business. You can also sign up for my free webinar that walks you through the phases of the course creation journey.
If you want to hear more about how I can help you create your online course with you or for you, send me a message.
Sophie Higgins – MA, MBA, MBC: I help experts create meaningful online courses with real impact. An online course should be a well-crafted, inspirational, and empowering learning experience. So, your unique wisdom can make a real difference in the learners’ life AND allow you to scale your business and live the life of your dreams.